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Celebration

- By Jim Hicks

The Regal Lemon Tree by Juan José Saer (Open Letter, 2020)

Though I’m less than certain about the world, and definitely not optimistic at all about this country, as far as I’m concerned the New Year couldn’t have started better. I spent it at a family celebration: three brothers-in-law, two of their wives and all the kids, the girls back from the big city, a friend in tow as well, roasting a lamb, sitting together outside around a big table, reminiscing about old times and imagining the future, drinking lots of red wine—eventually some local musicians showed up, and then the dancing began. It doesn’t get any better.

Okay, yeah...


Reviews

The Story Behind the Statistics

- By Nefeli Forni

Cherry by Nico Walker (Knopf, 2018)

Last year the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the NIH declared that 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids every day. Multiples more overdose and survive, as did the narrator of Cherry, a ferocious and exhilarating, typewritten-from-prison debut novel by Nico Walker. Told in the first person by a nameless young man, the narrative charts his course through a constellation of crises afflicting contemporary life in the U.S., crises that threaten to erase his story entirely, folding it into yet another austere NIH statistic. Like nearly three million others since the declaration of the U.S. War...



Reviews

Making Queer Worlds

- By Subhalakshmi Gooptu

The World That Belongs To Us: An Anthology of Queer Poetry from South Asia, edited by Aditi Angiras and Akhil Katyal (Harper Collins, 2020)

"They say This world isn’t for you
Why then was I born into it, if it wasn’t for me."

These lines hit you like a gust of unforgiving wind. Almost two-thirds through the book, editors Aditi Angiras and Akhil Katyal have tricked you. Lulled with poems of joy, resistance, freedom, love and escape, you flip through pages quickly, looking for more. But some poems stop you in your track. To startle you. Phurbu Tashi’s “This World Isn’t For You”...


Reviews

"The Past Hovers Like Smoke": John Balaban's Empire

- By Lorrie Goldensohn

Empires by John Balaban (Copper Canyon Press 2019)

In a John Balaban poem, random acts of both kindness and destruction happen in profusion, but what they fall upon is never nameless. A resourceful diction—plus a wry, casual mastery of metaphor—nail the scene. From “Cibolero”: “the rain, dropping its dark curtains…” From the poem “At Nora’s House,” herring run “inside the green lung of the recoiling wave.” But in “Christmas Eve at Washington’s Crossing,” the poet needed as much nerve and determination to lift this old warhorse of a subject into fresh poetry as the general took in crossing...


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